2017

Here is my now traditional ‘annual review’. 

This has been a year of contrasts. Physically, I have struggled a bit with ill-health. Largely with atrial fibrillation, latterly with atrial flutter. But it has to be said that it hasn’t slowed me down much. And the physical problems pale into utter insignificance alongside ‘The Good Stuff’ (™).

Where to start on ‘The Good Stuff’ (™)? 

Difficult! 

2016 was such a good year, it was hard to believe that another year could be even half as good. But 2017, though less ‘spectacular’ than 2016, has been even better in some ways.

I’m going to begin near the end, for reasons which make sense to me (but may not to you!). Towards the end of the year, I began to realise why I have always been so pessimistic about the future. The explanation was very simple and, now that I know what it is, I know that I simply have to let God ‘in’ to some more of the story of my early life. Having begun to do that, it’s getting easier to deal with; the pessimism is losing its grip on my thoughts. Sorry - I’m not ready, yet, to divulge the full story. One day, perhaps, once the ‘cure’ is complete.

Before that, though, I struggled a bit to believe that life could just go on being good, and that I could simply continue basking in being happy. I kept expecting, in a way, something to go wrong, despite these words from Paul’s letter to the church in Rome and other passages:

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. Romans 8:28

At times, I could scarcely believe what was happening - so much so that it often felt as though I was living inside a dream. Alongside the ‘fading’ of the pessimism, came the realisation that ‘The Good Stuff’ (™) was real and not a dream.

So what happened which was so good? In a word, friendship. And through that, a dawning realisation of the depth of God’s love. I have, this year, experienced Christ’s love in a variety of ways, but mainly through His people, the church. People have shown God’s love to me, through the things they have thought, said and done, in an incredibly consistent way - things started by one, have been continued by a second, and finished by a third - often without each knowing that the other was at work. I’m not really into the whole Roman Catholic saints thing, but they do say good stuff sometimes, like this from St Teresa of Įvila (1515-82):

“Christ has no body now but yours. No hands, no feet on earth but yours. Yours are the eyes through which he looks compassion on this world. Yours are the feet with which he walks to do good. Yours are the hands through which he blesses all the world. Yours are the hands, yours are the feet, yours are the eyes, you are his body. Christ has no body now on earth but yours.”

This year I have experienced others being Christ’s eyes, feet, and hands; ministering to me on His behalf. I am profoundly grateful to those people for being willing to be used by God.

Of particular note, something which has been a particular pleasure (and which was instigated by one of those people acting for the Lord), has been being back in touch with Izzy, whom I first knew when we were teenagers, and with whom I lost touch a long time ago. Losing touch with her was one of those ‘little niggles’ that trip one up sometimes; a source of regret from long ago. Happily, God seems to care about everything, even little things like that. We have emailed, texted, and met up (twice now!). It has been a real pleasure to make her acquaintance again; she is even more lovely, more Christlike, now than I had remembered.

My joy at this development seems out of all proportion to its significance - it is not exactly ‘earth-shattering’ news. But it is a source of considerable pleasure. And I think neatly illustrates a phrase which has been rattling around in the largely empty void which I call my mind:

The little things are the big things.

By that I mean that the things which one thinks of as important - careers, houses, etc, really aren’t all that important. What matters is people. Love and friendship are the little things which are really the big things.

This year I feel as though I have posted less to this blog than some other years. Partly that has been because I’ve been thinking complicated thoughts, and I’m still not sure I understand them well enough to explain them satisfactorily. The other main reason is, of all things, embarrassment. My other thinking has almost all centred on God’s love - very often as manifest through other people. And I kept thinking ‘I can’t publish yet another post about God’s love.’ I seemed to have written so much about it already. But actually, nothing else in the entire universe is as important…

So why not write about it? Next year I intend to do so, quite unapologetically.

Here, to round off this post, and set the scene for next year, is one of my favourite bits of the bible - I’ve been ‘on the receiving end’ of this a lot lately. Oddly (or perhaps not?), I think it’s also one of the bits I understand least well intellectually:

My beloved friends, let us continue to love each other since love comes from God. Everyone who loves is born of God and experiences a relationship with God. The person who refuses to love doesn't know the first thing about God, because God is love - so you can't know him if you don't love. This is how God showed his love for us: God sent his only Son into the world so we might live through him. This is the kind of love we are talking about - not that we once upon a time loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to clear away our sins and the damage they've done to our relationship with God.

My dear, dear friends, if God loved us like this, we certainly ought to love each other. No one has seen God, ever. But if we love one another, God dwells deeply within us, and his love becomes complete in us - perfect love! 1 John 4: 7-12

I usually quote from the New International Version, but I've used ‘The Message’ here - a modern paraphrase. I don’t like some aspects of the way the NIV translates this passage - it feels rather ‘dry’ and doesn’t seem to convey the passion, the depth of feeling, contained within the original. The Message does a much better job for once! 

And that, in summary, is what I have been on the receiving end of this year.

God bless you!

Copyright © Phil Hendry, 2016